John McCrae was a Canadian army doctor who served in Belgium and France during WW1. He was so moved by how quickly the poppies grew up and around the makeshift grave of a recently fallen friend that he wrote the poem “In Flanders Field”, (1915).
The photos below are of the towering Canadian monument, “The Brooding Soldier”, and a headstone in the Canadian section of the cemetery in Flanders Field.
Inspired by the words of the poem, “In Flanders Field”, Madame Anna Guérin, “The Poppy Lady“, founded a charity to help rebuild war-torn regions of France. To fund this project, she sold red fabric poppies.
Madame Guérin approached France’s allies, including Canada, about using the poppy as their country’s official symbol of remembrance. On July 6, 1921, the Canadian Legion agreed to do so and, to this day, the poppy is worn on the left lapel (closest to the heart) on the days leading up to November 11 to honour those who died in military combat since WW1. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the poppy.
My dad was a WW11 Army veteran and a member of the Calgary Tank Regiment (he is the one in the middle of the photo- left). He mainly was stationed in Italy and being on the front lines, there is little doubt he witnessed horrific events. He was part of that generation… the strong, silent type that never spoke of their feelings, possibly suppressing grief and loss throughout his lifetime.
My dad was not a tall man and was slight of build, but had the strength and stamina of men twice his size. He was handsome, loved to dress up and liked to dance…his favourite song was “The Tennessee Waltz”. He was “cool” long before I knew what cool was.
Although he worked out of town throughout most of my adolescence, he was the buffer between my mom and me at an age when mothers and daughters often locked horns. My mom was not impressed with my fashion sense or the way I chose to wear my hair, and somehow, he managed to neutralize the ragged edges of that relationship. I remember one time after an exasperating and unsuccessful shopping trip with my mom to get new shoes, my dad took me to a high-end shoe store and bought me a pair of pale pink patent leather Queen Anne heels that I’m guessing were well beyond the household budget. I loved those shoes…they went to bed with me that night! He also got me through Math 30…the unit on probability. When I would get all tangled up in the text of a problem, he would logically take me through the process until I understood it. Once I became an adult, I would often visit with a torn out magazine picture of something I hoped he would build for me. Usually, the first words he’d say were, “No, I don’t think I can make that”, and then after a night of mulling it over, he’d call and say yes he could do it. The times we spent together in his workshop were some of my fondest memories.
Like many of you who will be thinking of a family member or loved one this Remembrance Day, I, too, will be remembering my dad…my hero.